This Veteran’s Day the nation honors an entire generation of young Americans whose lives have been altered by two wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Recognizing that the effects of war do not stop on the battlefield, but return home with the heroes who proudly and bravely served our country, Stevens reactivated its Veterans Office in 2009 following a hiatus since the Vietnam War.
The Veterans Office is committed to educating and supporting members of all five branches of the military. In the last two years, it has served more than 50 veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan – as well as current military personnel and their children – at both the graduate and undergraduate level, as well as online through Stevens’ WebCampus program. The Veterans Office provides academic support as well as access to health and counseling services, fitness facilities and the campus ministry.
“These are the best educational benefits offered to veterans and military members since World War II,” said Donald Lombardi, Ph.D., a former officer of the United States Marine Corps and the Academic Director of the Stevens Veterans Office.
With its rich legacy of educating innovators and leaders working at the forefront of technology, science and business, as well is its active partnerships with government agencies and defense sector industry leaders, Stevens has always been an attractive educational institution for veterans. But its appeal has grown since Stevens became a participant in the Yellow Ribbon program, a provision of the federal Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2008 which expands educational benefits for veterans. Through the Yellow Ribbon program, qualified veterans can receive complete funding for an undergraduate education. Stevens was the first school of its category to receive the Yellow Ribbon designation in the greater New York metropolitan area.
Today, Stevens is proud to have 11 full-time Yellow Ribbon students who are veterans, and four students who are dependents of active duty military and are full-time Yellow Ribbon scholarship recipients, including seven Dean’s List scholars and two varsity athletes.
One of the Dean’s List scholars, former Marine Ben Choe, is an engineering management major and the 2011 recipient of the Student Worker of the Year Award. The university cited him for exemplary work on the Stevens-State of NJ Healthcare Grant Program.
“As a former Marine, I am very impressed by the speed, care and effectiveness of the Stevens Veterans Office,” said Choe. “They went the extra step to make sure the administrative details and all of my students needs were met at the same high standards as the Stevens Educational Charter.”
Other standout veteran students include Ryan Bridge, a two-time All-American wrestler and President’s List scholar, and R.J. Polunin, a biomedical engineering major who contributed to research project on mental health issues with the Veterans Health Administration (VA) hospitals that resulted in an articulation and affiliation agreement with the New York VA Medical System.
“We are continually inspired by these veteran students who continue to advocate for their fellow soldiers after returning home,” said Lombardi. “They know what it means to serve and embody the best of the American spirit.”
In that same vein, the university administration is reaffirming its commitment to all soldiers and veterans by developing partnerships with the VA medical facilities in the northeastern United States, the National Association of State Veteran Homes, and other leading veteran advocacy groups. This year Stevens was also selected as a partner in the US Marine Corps Leadership Scholar program, joining other elite schools like Virginia Tech and The University of North Carolina. In addition, the university works with government agencies on security projects and technological advances, in part through a satellite campus in Washington, D.C. that works to strengthen those partnerships.
Stevens students have also taken steps to make sure campus life for enrolled veterans is welcoming, hassle-free and supportive. A new organization was recently started on the Hoboken campus called Operation: Support Freedom, which plans to support active soldiers and returning veterans by working closely with the Wounded Warrior Project and the Soldier’s Angels program.
“Our whole team does everything possible to make sure the transition to academic life here at Castle Point is as seamless as possible, and peerless in quality by every standard,” said Lombardi.
This is, of course, nothing new for Stevens. The university’s commitment to our nation's active duty, veteran and dependent military community has been firmly established over its 140-year history.
“Providing stellar education in engineering, leadership, and technology to these heroes is not a new commitment from Stevens,” said Lombardi. “The university has been providing education ranging from the Navy Steamship Engineering School during World War I, to officer leadership training during World War II, followed by engineering education during the wars in Korea and Vietnam.”
Additional information on the Stevens Veterans Office may be found at /sit/veterans/.